Carl Schaller (above) and Garnet Valley are one of many area teams in a playoff hunt as the regular season winds down. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
The 2019-20 Pennsylvania high school basketball regular season is quickly coming up on its finish, with some leagues only a couple weeks away from beginning their postseasons. Within a month, district playoffs will be in full swing, and the state championships in Hershey are two months away.
Before we get that deep into the postseason, however, most teams in the area are focused on either or both of two things: their individual league standings, and their spot in the district playoff picture. Here’s a quick catch-up of where things are at in the area’s various high school leagues; part one can be found below, and Part Two can be found here:
Bicentennial Athletic League
Playoff Info: Feb. 10 (First Round), Feb. 11 (Quarterfinals), Feb. 13 (Semifinals), Feb. 15 (Championship)
Playoff Location: Home courts (First Round through Semifinals); Morrisville (Championship)
For those who don’t know, the BAL is the area’s small-school league, maybe up largely of private schools, though there are a few smaller (3A and 4A) public schools in the mix, like Lower Moreland, Morrisville, New Hope-Solebury, and Bristol. The top 16 teams in the 17-team league qualify for the postseason, with teams from all three divisions –– Constitution, Independence, and Presidents –– mixed together in one bracket. There are several teams who are enjoying strong seasons, with a real shot at the title, and while the rest of the schedule won’t determine who’s in and who’s out, it will give us an idea of who’s the favorites entering the league.
Constitution leader The Christian Academy (12-3, 7-0) has scored 70-plus points 10 times, topping out at over 95 twice, proving themselves to be perhaps the most potent offense in the league behind Grant Sareyka. Christopher Dock (11-3, 8-0) leads the Presidents division, just ahead of Delco Christian (11-3, 7-1). In the Independence, Holy Ghost Prep (10-3, 5-2) and defending champ Lower Moreland (7-9, 5-4). Some games to watch include Holy Ghost Prep at Delco Christian (Weds., Jan. 22, 7:00 PM), TCA’s trip to Dock (Fri., Jan. 24, 7 PM), Dock hosting Delco Christian (Thurs., Jan. 28, 7:00 PM), and Lower Moreland vs. Holy Ghost Prep (Thurs., Jan. 30, 7:00 PM).
Marcus Randolph (above) and Archbishop Wood are one of two unbeaten teams in the Philly Catholic League. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Playoff Info. Feb. 12 (First Round), Feb. 14 (Quarterfinals), Feb. 19 (Semifinals), Feb. 24 (Championship)
Location: Home courts (First round, Quarterfinals), Palestra (Semifinals, Championship)
There’s a lot of buzz around the Catholic League this year, and the general consensus seems to be that this is the deepest the league’s ever been. How good is the PCL? If the season ended today –– and granted, not everybody has played the same number of games –– then an incredibly talented Roman Catholic squad would be the No. 8 seed. There are five teams with two losses and two with three, not to mention the two unbeaten squads –– Archbishop Wood (13-3, 9-0) and Neumann-Goretti (13-2, 7-0) –– sitting atop the leaderboard. And wouldn’t you know it, those two programs are about to meet, at Neumann-Goretti on Friday (Jan. 24) at 7 PM. That might be the toughest ticket in the city to get this year. No matter what, both are in good shape for a top-two seed, though neither are totally in the clear; Wood still also has to play at Carroll (5-2) and St. Joe’s Prep (4-3) and host Archbishop Ryan (6-2) to close out the year, while Neumann-Goretti has Ryan, McDevitt (4-2), and O’Hara (6-2) amongst its remaining opponents.
Of those five teams with two losses –– in addition to Ryan, Carroll, and O’Hara, there’s also Bonner (6-2) and McDevitt (4-2), the last of which has eight league games to play in a span of 18 days to close out the year. Two of that group, or potentially even Roman or Prep, will grab the third and fourth seeds, grabbing a home game in the quarterfinals; No. 5 and No. 6 get a bye into the quarterfinals while No. 7 and No. 8 get No. 9 and No. 10 in the first round.
Here are just some of the games to see that will have an impact down the stretch: O’Hara hosting Bonner-Prendergast (Mon., Jan. 27, 7:00 PM), McDevitt hosting Carroll (Wed., Jan. 29, 7 PM), Bonner hosting Ryan (Fri., Jan. 31, 7 PM), O’hara hosting Roman (Sun., Feb. 2, 2:30 PM), Ryan hosting Carroll (Mon., Feb. 3, 7 PM), Carroll hosting O’Hara (Wed., Feb. 5, 7 PM), and Ryan hosting McDevitt (Fri., Feb. 7, 7 PM).
Playoff Info: Feb. 8 (First Round), Feb. 10 (Semifinals), Feb. 11 (Championship)
For the first time, the Central League will move to a six-team playoff with the top two teams receiving a first round bye. Traditionally, the Central League has been dominated by teams like Lower Merion, Penncrest, Garnet Valley, and Conestoga. This year seems to be more of the same, with Lower Merion (14-1, 9-1) and Garnet Valley (13-1, 9-1) tied atop the league standings and looking in shape to gain that first round off. The Aces took an early season contest, 69-56 over the visiting Jags, but will the two will take on each other once more before the regular season concludes, on Jan. 30 at Garnet Valley. Penncrest (7-3) currently sits in third place with a big game upcoming against Garnet Valley on Jan. 22 which could eventually push them to the second seed if things fall the right way. A handful of teams (Ridley, Conestoga, Upper Darby, Radnor, Strath Haven, Marple-Newtown) sit around the 5-5 mark making the middle of the league a bit of a mess as six teams (or even seven if you include a tough Haverford High at 3-7) battle it out for the remaining three playoff spots.
Needless to say, this will be one of the more interesting playoff races in the area as each game will be pivotal for teams trying to extend their seasons. There are plenty of important games that will shape the playoffs, but here are some of note: Garnet Valley hosting Penncrest (Wed., Jan 22, 7 PM), Upper Darby hosting Ridley (Fri., Jan 24, 7:30 PM), Strath Haven hosting Marple Newtown (Tue., Jan 28, 7 PM), Conestoga hosting Haverford HS (Tue., Jan 28, 7 PM), Garnet Valley hosting Lower Merion (Thur., Jan 30, 7 PM), Ridley hosting Conestoga (Thur., Jan 30, 7 PM), Marple Newtown hosting Radnor (Tue., Feb. 4, 7 PM), Radnor hosting Strath Haven (Thur., Feb 6, 7 PM), and Conestoga hosting Upper Darby (Fri., Feb 7, 7:30 PM).
Jhamir Brickus (above) and Coatesville are in good position to defend their Ches-Mont League title. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Playoff Info: Feb. 8 (Semifinals), Feb. 11 (Championship)
Location: West Chester University
The Ches-Mont League consists of two divisions, the American and National, with the American holding six teams and the National seven. The playoff picture is easy: the top two teams from each division play, the first-place teams play the other division’s second-place teams, and the winners meet in the championship. With time winding down, one division’s playoff picture looks a little more secure than the others, but the true contenders are clear.
The Ches-Mont National features the defending league champs, Coatesville, and the Red Raiders (11-4, 7-0) once again look like the class of the league, having beaten the team trailing them, West Chester East (11-3, 5-1) by 24 at East back in December; they’ll rematch this Friday (Jan. 24) at 6:45 PM to see if anything has changed. Even if East loses, they’re still a game clear of Downingtown West (4-3) and Downingtown East (3-3), and will still control its destiny with a season-ending game against D’Town West (Feb. 4, 6:45 PM). The Ches-Mont American has West Chester Rustin (12-4, 6-0) in the lead, but Unionville (10-5, 4-1) is right behind them, with Great Valley (7-8, 4-2) in the mix as well. Unionville’s got a chance to seal things up in the next 10 days, playing at Rustin on Jan. 22 (6:45 PM) and at home against Great Valley (Jan. 28, 6:45 PM), with a measuring-stick contest against Coatesville (Feb. 1, 12:15 PM) in the mix as well.
Playoff Info: None
The Del-Val is really easy to figure out: with only five teams (after scandals at Glen Mills cost the league its sixth member), and no postseason tournament, the winner goes to whoever has the best record in an eight-game, round-robin conference play. So far, it’s the league’s most recognizable name, Chester in the lead at 12-3 (4-0), and the Clippers are the only team that’s played four league games, with the teams rotating a bye while the other four play. Of the first round through the league, only Penn Wood (8-4, 2-1) came close, with Chester picking up a 72-69 win at Chester on Jan. 7; the return game, on Jan. 23 at 7:30 PM at Penn Wood, could be the difference between a split title or Chester running away with it. Academy Park (10-5, 2-1) is also in the mix, but lost by 22 to Chester on Jan. 9.
Tag(s): Home High School Bicentennial League Christopher Dock Delco Christian Holy Ghost Prep Lower Moreland The Christian Academy Catholic League Archbishop Carroll Archbishop Ryan Archbishop Wood Bishop McDevitt Bonner-Prendergast Cardinal O'Hara Neumann-Goretti Roman Catholic St. Joe's Prep Central League Conestoga Garnet Valley Lower Merion Marple Newtown Penncrest Radnor Ridley Upper Darby Ches-Mont American Great Valley Unionville West Chester Rustin Ches-Mont National Coatesville Downingtown East Downingtown West West Chester East Delaware Valley Academy Park Chester Penn Wood Ches-Mont